This was a good thing.
I went back to work on Thursday, and I am starting the year with four days on call. And what a call it has been. I've had multiple really sick people spread all over the province, and my pager has been going off seemingly constantly. Whereas I thought I'd be staying late to keep up with paperwork, I've had to stay late just to get the bare minimum done.
It's honestly a little demoralizing. I'm only three days into the work year, and I already have new letters that need to be dictated and old letters that need to be edited. And I've had one night of insomnia, followed by a sleep deprivation-induced migraine. (Awesome combo)
But...it's a process. And I know that call is the hardest part of my job, particularly when it's busy call. So I'm breathing. And focusing on what I can learn from this experience, rather than on all the things that don't seem to be working.
When I reflect on the past few days, the biggest thing that I'm reminded of is how much I dislike the uncertainty of call. This isn't really shocking, as I'm a person who hates surprises and likes to have everything planned. Carrying around a tiny piece of plastic that can scream at me and derail my day without warning is really not my favourite thing.
Fortunately, there are things that I can do to make this easier to cope with. The biggest one, and one that I've been leaning towards but not quite willing to commit to until now, is not making plans with other people while I'm on call. In theory, the best thing about home call is the fact that I can continue to live a normal life while I'm call, but in reality, everything is made worse by the pager hanging over me. I hate planning to meet someone and then having to cancel (or getting called away in the middle of doing something). It happened on Thursday night when I was planning to meet a BFF for my favourite yoga class, and then it happened again on Friday night when I was supposed to go to a party for people from my residency. And it sucked.
Not to say that I will never make plans (I would still try to make it to the Friday night party, for example, as the date was fixed), but that I'm going to try to keep my call days as flexible as possible. Some of this is more mental than anything - trying to not get attached to any idea of how the day will look, but rather take things as they come*. If the day is busy and I have to work until late, I'm mentally prepared for that. If it's not and I have time for non-work things, then it's a bonus and I can use the opportunity to go to yoga or wash dishes or sit on the couch with the cats playing Stone Age online with The 76K Project. (Mostly the latter).
I'm trying to approach my current weekend this way, and so far it seems to be helping (?). When I got up this morning, instead of trying to map out the weekend, I made myself a list of things from highest to lowest priority. Providing good patient care was #1, with prepping for my upcoming lectures (which I technically should've had done by yesterday) #2. While I was responding to pages this morning, I spent a few hours getting the lectures done, thus getting the most important (as well as the most stress-inducing) task out of the way. And then the pager was kind to me, and I was able to go to an hour of
The change in approach and mindset has already made me a little less emotionally reactive when the pager has gone off. It has still been annoying, and I'm not looking forward to starting my day at the hospital tomorrow, but it's better. Will it help in the long term? I guess I'll see...
*I feel like call gives me some sense of what it would be like to be a parent. Everything is going well, then *BAM*, one kid spills a 2 L of milk on the floor and the other is running around naked drawing on themself with permanent marker.